The Christian experience can be a daunting one. Especially if you find yourself in an endless circle of failure; not knowing how to exit. You are told, “study the Bible and pray.” You do that, but still, find yourself being overcome and overwhelmed by temptation.
Meaningful victory in the Christian life is not about great victory, but about consistent, unbroken connection with God. It is not about one or two moments of rapturous spiritual experiences, but about stability and steady growth.
For growth and maturity to take place in the Christian life, there are some “must-have” habits. I am hoping to inspire growing Christians with an understanding of the non-negotiable habits that must be developed if they are going to be effective.
1. Controls their thoughts. A mature Christian does not allow his/her thoughts to run wild. I have often heard it said, “we sin in our minds without even knowing it.” This statement gives the impression that we are not accountable or responsible for the thoughts that occupy our minds. The Bible teaches otherwise. Sin begins in the mind (James 1:13-15). While we cannot control the thoughts that enter our minds, we are responsible for what we meditate upon. We have a responsibility to guard the windows of the mind—our senses. Hence a mature Christian would have developed some mechanisms for dealing with impure thoughts based on what the Bible recommends. When an evil thought comes to mind, we can claim a Bible promise, sing a spiritual song, pray or repeat Scripture (Ephesians 5:19, 20). Whatever, we do, we have a responsibility to replace evil thoughts with spiritual one’s daily.
2. Daily Bible study and prayer are not an option. There was a time in my life when part of my devotional life was to basically fulfill a spiritual duty. I would try my best to have my devotion daily. However, there were times when other competing interests would prevent me from being as consistent as I should with my devotional exercises. However, as I grew in understanding of human nature (the carnal mind) and of my need for Christ, I do not pray and read Bible merely to fulfill a spiritual duty anymore, but because I cannot do without it. Bible study and prayer is not a mere routine, it is a conversation with God. Without this daily conversation, there can be no spiritual life, for I know (like Paul) that no good thing dwells within me by default (Romans 7:18-19). Therefore, I need Jesus every day; every moment.
3. Trusts the Bible above feelings. Feeling/emotion is part of the Christian experience. Once in a relationship with Christ, we will experience moments of spiritual fervor when the presence of God overwhelms us. However, a mature Christian, also understands that there will be moments when feelings will betray you. There are moments when you will feel as if you are the worse sinner in the world. Matter of fact, the closer you come to Christ, the more sinful you will feel. There are also times when the wrong thing will ‘feel’ right. But these feelings are not to be trusted. The believer in Christ must practice believing and obeying the word of God purely on the basis that it is right.
4. Practices the presence of Jesus. A mature Christian will not only accept the theory of God’s omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience, but will allow this awareness to affect his/her faith and life. A mature Christian will cause the consciousness of God’s presence to keep them through trial and obedient in the face of temptation. It is the awareness of the presence of God that kept Job through his trials. Job’s friends thought that they had to deny God’s presence in his life in order to accept Job’s situation. But Job said (in essence) “though I cannot trace Him, He knows where I am, and I am going to obey Him any how” (Job 23:9-10).
5. Practices unconditional love. The mature Christian is guided by the principles of love as found in the 10 commandments, not in letter only, but in principle, as presented by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). The Mature Christian understands that the goal of the Christian life is to develop a character like Jesus (1 Corinthians 13:1-8). Therefore, their aim is not merely faithfulness to “church-going”, but to bear fruit—the fruit represents love. A mature Christian does not need others to be perfect in order to love them as Christ would. They practice love others without demanding perfection of them.
6. Knows how to forgive themselves when they make mistakes. The mature Christian does not only learn how to accept God’s forgiveness but does not wallow in self-pity when they make mistakes. They believe the words of God that “if any man sin, they have an advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:1-2). They do not take God’s grace for granted, but neither do they attempt to earn salvation on their own merits. Persons who give in to self-pity when they fall to temptation are usually ones who are trying to merit salvation their own perfection. The mature Christian accepts the perfect righteousness of Jesus as theirs.
Of course, these are not the only things that mature Christians do, but these highlights some fundamental habits to maintaining a consistent relationship with God. And that is the goal. Maturity is about learning how to hold on to Jesus without letting go.